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4 Ways to Update Your Website

If you’re a business owner having a website is a must for any kind of effective online presence. For starters, you need a website for online advertising. A website also gives you the most control for managing your business image.

Google and Facebook are necessary now, but there’s no guarantee they will be around forever. If you already have a website, you need to make sure it’s modern and optimized for user experience on both desktop computers and mobile devices. Let’s take a look at how an Omaha web design company like us can help you get your website updated or built from scratch.

reasons to have a website

Use WordPress

WordPress is one of the best platforms for building a business website, or any website, and is what our Omaha web developers use most often. WordPress is cost effective. The designing and development are affordable, and the upkeep and maintenance expenses are inexpensive. WordPress is search engine optimization ready. WP websites have simple and constant codes making them ideal for Google indexing. Our WP websites designs are responsive, meaning they adapt to mobile devices automatically.

Use Professional Photography

Photos enable you to show your customers and clients what you have to offer them. Consumers like to see things for themselves before making a purchasing decision. The photos you use on your website represent your business. Low quality, unprofessional photos communicate a “low quality” message about your company and products to the people viewing the images. That’s just how the human mind works. Investing in professional quality photos is an investment in the way customers and prospects see you — first impressions do matter.

Clarify Your Message

If you have a great looking website and professional photos, but your messaging is poor or confusing you will lose business.  Every word serves a purpose.  Right away you need to be clear about what you’re offering and why it’s going to make your customer’s life better. You need to focus on the benefits first and the features second. If you’re not familiar with the principles of persuasion and effective sales writing investing in professional copywriting services is just as important as investing in professional photography.

Add Value by Educating

Potential customers come to your website because you’re an authority in what you do. You’re an expert in your industry. Instead of telling customers you’re the best, prove to them you’re the best by giving them some value upfront. Share your expertise about what you know, and educate your audience. Once they feel empowered with new knowledge, they’re more likely to make a decision and choose the expert who helped them fill in the gaps of their understanding.  You can educate on any page within your website, but regular blog articles are one of the most effective ways to accomplish this. It also has the added benefit of helping your SEO rankings.

Ready to Update Your Website?

The most important things to consider for a modern website is making sure it’s responsive, has good photos, and clear messaging. If you hit those three points, you’re probably in good shape. If you’re lacking on one or two of those and don’t want to take on all the updates yourself, we can help you out.

5 Things to do Tonight to Improve your Business Online

Do you have a small to midsize business but no or minimum online presence? Have you been thinking about looking into SEO services in Omaha? Before you make a decision to invest in search engine optimization and web marketing you should get the big picture overview of the value. We’ll cover each of these topics in more depth in later posts, but for now these are the main things you can start thinking about and doing to improve your businesses’ online effectiveness.

1. Update Your Website

First, if you don’t have a website you’ll want to get one to have any online business presence. A website is necessary for online advertising and gives you control over your business image. Google and Facebook aren’t guaranteed to be around forever, so banking on a Google My Business (GMB) listing or a Facebook page for presence and credibility isn’t a great long-term strategy. If you do have a website, you need to make sure it’s modern and optimized for good user experience on both desktop computers and mobile devices.

reasons to have a website

Tips for a Good Website:

  • Use WordPress for a robust and flexible content management system.
  • Use professional photography as this builds credibility and assists is enhancing a beautiful design.
  • Have a clear message and readable content so customers know they can trust you and exactly what they need to do to begin using your product/service.
  • Add value to customers by educating them and they’ll be more likely to trust you… not to mention Google will reward you.

Simple Website Action Items:

  • Your listed phone number should be clickable
  • Add new photos
  • Teach customers something valuable

UPDATE MY WEBSITE

2. Claim Your Google My Business Listing

When people search for you or businesses like yours the majority of the time they use Google. If you don’t have a GMB listing the chances of them finding you are slim to none. A GMB listing tells your potential customers valuable information, like your website address, physical address, telephone, and shows your reviews from past customers. It also features a map with a pinpoint showing your location.

JM Google My Business Listing

Tips for Your GMB Listing: 

  • Make sure the name, address, and phone number match exactly
  • Add photos to show what it’s like to work with you
  • Use the service area 
  • Enable messages, if you can commit to immediate responses

Here’s JM’s free guide to setting up a GMB page.

3. Create a Facebook Business Page

Facebook is still King of the social media platforms. If you run a business you need a Facebook business page. People will actually search for you on Facebook. It’s also a way to post helpful information and make announcements to your customers and potential customers. You can link your website to your Facebook page offering another avenue for prospects to reach you. Once you’re on Facebook join local groups that have an interest in your industry. You can make connections, learn what people are interested in, and even offer solutions to common problems to establish yourself as an authority.

steps to take for facebook success

4. Search Yourself

Finding out how easy it is for your customer to find you is critical for your online success. If you’re online but barely visible, you’re leaving a lot of money and potential customers on the table. The best way to test this is by pretending you are one of your customers.

Google search for what customers are looking for

Start by making a list:

  • List your services & Products
  • Add other names for those services and products
  • Add the names customers commonly use, especially when they’re wrong

Type your list items one at a time into Google search. Is your website at the top of the first page on the search result? Is your website on the first page at all? Who is ranking number one? Examine the number one ranking website and look at their information. What is the format and the content? Can you do better?

Maybe you can’t be number one, but you should have an aim to be near the top, and it is doable with the right strategy.

HELP MY SEARCH PRESENCE

5. Make A Content Plan

You can have the most amazing looking website in the world, and it won’t sell a thing if the content is weak.   Your customer needs to know what your offering and why it’s going to make their life better.

Great content is a result of asking yourself the right questions and providing those answers to your customer.

Here are the questions you need to ask:

  • What can I teach my customers?
  • What questions do I answer repeatedly?
  • What’s new in my industry?
  • What information in Google search could I add clarity to?
  • What is my competition doing?
  • What search terms are relevant to my business that my website isn’t addressing?

If you Build it They Will Come

After you’ve answered those critical questions, you can start building your content machine. Things to think about moving forward: 

  • Content is text, image, audio, and video
  • Who is going to write your content?
  • Who will create, edit, and post your content?
  • How will you promote your content?
  • What will your content schedule be?  

CREATE YOUR CONTENT PLAN

Where to Start?

Hopefully you now have a sense of the online business landscape and where you should be focusing your energy. You don’t need to do everything overnight, but you should start taking action on the most important aspects. If you need help getting started give us a call and we’ll give you some advice on where you need to focus first.  

Mobile First More Important than Ever

Google has a mobile first mentality. Not so much because Google likes mobile, but because people like mobile. Now, more than ever before, people are using mobile devices to navigate the online world. Because of consumer demand Google has adjusted, and if the website user experience on mobile isn’t excellent, it hurts the website’s organic rankings.

If you’re thinking about SEO in Omaha and improving your web marketing you’re going to need to make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices in 2019. 

Responsive Websites are Mobile Friendly  

We build responsive websites. Responsive websites respond to the resolution of the device, and the format shifts depending on the resolution the website is being viewed under. In most cases the desktop view will inform the mobile view.

The big benefits of responsive websites in the context of mobile include:  

  • Increasing your reach to tablet and mobile audiences
  • Increasing sales and conversions
  • Consolidating your analytics and reporting
  • Increasing your visibility in search engines
  • Saving time and cost on site management
  • Saving time and cost on mobile development  

The Big 5 Mobile Optimized Website Benefits

1. Improved User Experience

What happens when you receive a link via a text message from a friend, you click the link and it takes you to a jumbled mess of a website that you can’t understand? You leave. And you likely never go back, killing the chances of that website ever making you a customer.

If users can’t easily browse and read the content on your website from their mobile devices, they will always leave uninspired. Mobile optimized sites are critical for attracting and retaining new customers.

A website built for an enhanced mobile experience will keep users engaged through clean page formatting, with intentionally ordered content and clear calls to action. A good experience is not just the direct result of a nice looking page – but also of a page with valuable content.

2. Increased Time on Site

Time is the currency of the internet. You have only a few seconds to capture a website visitor’s attention. You have even less time when users are on mobile devices because they’re typically accessing your website when they’re out and on the go. When visitors encounter your mobile friendly website, they stay on the website longer, and you increase the odds of making them a customer. Increased time on site also one of the most critical factors for SEO success.

3. Faster Loading Speed  

Speed is important because as we just mentioned – time is a huge factor for user experience. A website that isn’t optimized for fast load time will render very slowly on a mobile device. In worse case scenarios it will not render at all. Studies show mobile website users will abandon a page if they have to wait more than 6-10 seconds. Check out some ways you can increase you website speed here.

4. Improved Mobile SEO  

If Google recommends it, we do it. Google recommends website developers build their sites to be responsive. A responsive website increases the likelihood your site will rank well in Google mobile search results. So, that’s what we build, because we build websites with search engine optimization in-mind.

5. Competitive Advantage  

Despite the data, and the recommendations, a lot of companies have ignored the growing trend of mobile users. By building pages with mobile experience in mind, you’ll keep yourself ahead of the competition.

Why have a Mobile First Mentality?

Mobile optimized websites are a big part of search engine success. It’s critical for any business that wants to compete to make sure they have a website that is mobile friendly. A one second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. The good news is we make responsive websites that are designed to thrive in the mobile online environment.

If you’re looking to make your website mobile friendly or need a new responsive website give us a call, 402.292.7500 and we’ll walk you through your options. 

The Importance of Link Equity

Link equity is a search engine ranking factor for your website. In essence, it refers to the equity or “value” passed from one page, or one website, to another through posted links.

Search engines like Google view links as votes by other websites indicating that your page is valuable and worth promoting. Having quality inbound and outbound links on your site can boost your organic rankings with search engines.

graphic  of browser with backlink

Types of Links

If you’re getting confused by all of the different link terminology let’s clear things up here. There are three different types of links.

Internal Links – An internal link would be a link on one of your website pages that links to a different page within your website.

External Links – If you have an external link, also known as an “outbound link,” it will link to another website or website page that is not yours.

Backlinks – Backlinks, also called “inbound links,” are links on another website that link back to your site. If website A makes an external link to website B, website B will have a backlink from website A. 

What Determines Link Equity?

Every type of link on your website weighed for link equity. There are some considerations to keep in mind when evaluating link equity. 

Relevance – If your linking to a page about knitting cat sweaters from an article about proper car maintenance the link isn’t relevant. Google is smart enough to figure that out at this point. Irrelevant links do not add value or build your authority. 

Age Helps  – When credible websites that have built up authority link to your website they pass on more link equity than links from brand-new sites.  

Crawlable – “Spiders” or “Crawlers” are names for programs search engines use to discover the content found online. HTML is the primary language. Make sure your pages and pages you’re linking to are crawler friendly, or they’ll be ignored. If you’re not sure about this, ask your website developer.  

Location – Links that are buried in footers and sidebars aren’t given as much weight as links positioned higher on the page.  The same goes for videos. The higher the video is on the page the more weight it’s given.

How to Get Quality Backlinks

There’s a lot of scammers out there in the web marketing world selling backlinks. The problem is they don’t pass the Link Equity criteria. One of the best and most affordable ways to build your link equity is by using the trust you’ve built with your partners, clients and affiliate organizations. Sometimes, all it takes is to ask a trusted partner or client for a link, and you’ll get it.

High Quality Original Content

Another way to get quality backlinks is providing value. There’s so much noise and poorly written content, that when actual quality original content is produced it rises to the top.  If you’re producing engaging and informative original content consistently you’ll eventually get noticed and become an irresistibly linkable authority.  

The Bigger Picture on Rankings

The reality is Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm. If you think that’s a lot – you’re right. It’s easy to get lost in the details, and by the time you think you understand it something changes.  Working with a web design firm that stays on top of this stuff is a great way to know you’re doing everything you can to get heard amongst all the noise.

What is Google E-A-T and Why it Matters

Way back in 2013 Google released a 160-page search quality evaluator guidelines paper. The document revealed that good content is among the top three webpage-quality factors. It went on to define high-quality content as content that demonstrates a high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T). In August of 2018, Google released an algorithm update, and SEO experts determined that sites with low E-A-T suffered the most from the algorithm update. If you’re looking to optimize your SEO in Omaha or to improve your web marketing, this is an essential read.

Expertise

Google’s search quality guidelines have identified two types of expertise: Formal and Everyday Expertise.

  • Formal: Especially in the medical, financial, and legal industries, a certified professional is considered the most reliable source of expertise. This is because if incorrect information is published in these areas, the chances of putting consumers at risk dramatically increases.
  • Everyday Expertise: The Google guide document states “For some topics, the most expert sources of information are ordinary people sharing their life experiences on personal blogs, forums, reviews, discussions, etc.”

The takeaway here is that you won’t necessarily need someone with credentialed expertise to fulfill the “expertise” factor is you’re working with a professional writer or are one yourself.

Authority

Authority is all about proving to your audience that the content on your website is legit. If your website falls under the “everyday expertise” category showing credentials aren’t as important. You can show authority by adding the author’s job title to their byline or linking to their professional website or full bio.

  • Cite Your Research – If your content creators aren’t “experts” thorough research and proper citation will make up for it. Linked sources is a signal to Google that you’re correctly attributing sources. Make sure your sources are high-quality backlinks. 
  • A Good Reputation – Reviews, and good reviews are critical. Most people rely heavily on reviews when considering using a company’s product or services. The Google guidelines state “Popularity, user engagement, and user reviews can be considered evidence of reputation.” Responding promptly and providing top notch customer service should be a part of your social media content strategy giving your customers plenty of motivation to leave you a positive review.

Trust

Transparency builds trust with your audience. Your website should clearly communicate who you are, how you make money, and that you will do what you say you will do.  If you’re accepting payments on your website users need to feel like payments can be accepted safely and appropriately. Your site should have a proper SSL certificate even if you’re not accepting any form of payment.  Providing helpful content rather than just trying to sell is another way to build trust.

  • Secure & Transparent – Be crystal clear about who you are, what you do, and why you do it. Make sure your site is secure and people know it.
  • Be Helpful – The whole idea behind content marketing is to provide value to your audience. Google is continually refining their algorithm with this in mind. They’re also using real people to determine if websites and web pages are meeting these criteria. Your content should either help or teach your audience something about a topic that is relevant to your business. Just trying to sell without giving value first is a trust buster.

The Big Takeaway for Google E-A-T

If you’re thinking that creating content that satisfies the E-A-T guidelines will take time, you’re right. The Google guidelines state it clearly, “We will consider content to be low quality if it is created without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill.”

The good news is you don’t need to become a content creator to satisfy Google E-A-T. There are plenty of affordable experts you can outsource who can create valuable user experiences for your customers. And before you know it, Google will recognize and reward you.

Local SEO, Paid Ads, Website SEO: Why all Three Matter

A business providing services to a local market should not underestimate the importance of local SEO services. Local SEO efforts often produce more website traffic and more leads. Higher conversions result when your local listings are optimized to accurately reflect your business information, products and services.

Our Omaha SEO team can tell you over and over about why local search engine optimization is important, but how about I just SHOW you. But before I do… let me tell you one more time.

GMB, Apple Maps and Yelp are all big players in local SEO

An optimized Google My Business (GMB) listing will help you pull up in Google for relevant searches – as this information pulls into the local map-pack, which has high visibility. Get a Step-By-Step Guide for setting up your GMB page, if you don’t already have one.

Your Apple Maps listing helps your business rank well for Siri voice command searches. And with over 700 million iPhones current being used worldwide, many users are using Siri search on their iPhones. And, Yelp provides Apple with access to some of its business page information, including reviews. So, optimizing your information and managing reviews for Yelp could not only assist you in organic rankings, but can also help with visibility in Apple Maps.

OPTIMIZE MY LOCAL SEARCH

To help you visualize

Here’s an example Google search for Dentist Omaha.

Paid Ads, Map Pack and Organic Search Results Illustration

You will see the paid ads appear at the top of the page, then the map pack, then organic results. Then at the bottom of the page are more paid ads.

What does this mean?

This image shows us two things. First, it shows us the importance of having a local SEO strategy. The map pack pulls in GMB pages organically based on the search query, matching the GMB listing with the keyword(s) being searched. And, the first organic result is from Yelp. While that isn’t the case for every search result for every product of service Yelp still ranks well for local product and service queries.

Second, this image shows the need for a holistic approach to your web marketing strategy. A Google Ads strategy partnered with local search optimization AND website search engine optimization efforts will help your business appear in all three sections.

OPTIMIZE MY LOCAL SEARCH

How to choose the right keyword

Selecting a keyword seems easy. In theory, you would select what you think your customers might type into Google to find you. But to do this process well, there are many things to consider. After all, is not about getting traffic, it’s about getting the right traffic.

The right keyword will bring in more potential leads, leading to more conversions. Additionally, the right traffic will stay on your website investing time in what you have to offer. This leads to low bouncerates and increased time on page – both important factors for search engine success.

keyword search icon

How do I start?

We recommend asking prospects and current customer how they found your businesses. After a while you may find a trend in the keyword or keyword phrase people are using.

This can get a bit complex if you’re a business who provides many different services. For instance, we have an architecture and engineering client who provides 10 different services. You cannot optimize for all 10 services, but you can begin to question prospects and find some potential trends and keywords that stand out among the others. Additionally, in this situation, you can provide good, informative, keyword-rich content on each unique service page for good page performance.

Once you’ve gathered some ideal keywords, search these keywords in the search engines to find how you currently perform under these keywords verses your competition, and any others you think might be a good fit.

Help me gather ideal keywords

Digging into keyword data

Ideally, you would use data to make final decisions about your keywords. There are many free tools available that can help including Google Analytics, Search Console, Moz and SEM rush.  These tools can give you some basic info about bouncerates, time on page, keywords, backlinking and information about your competition.

At the very least:

Check your website’s bouncerate: If your bouncerate is high for organic search, it’s likely that the right users are not finding your website.

Check search console: Search Console should be able to tell you the keywords you’re being found under. Go to search.google.com/search-console then performance. You’ll see a list of queries (keywords), clicks and impressions.

High volume, low competition: Google Ad Words Keyword Planner Tool is a good starting point. Here you can pull data on your potential keywords, along with other related keywords, and find the volume of searches for each. Ideally you want keywords with a decent amount of searches and low competition.

Help me gather data

In it to win it

For our Omaha SEO team, the value of a keyword is determined through data and testing. Depending on your industry and the competition, demand may be high for your ideal keywords or phrases. This just means there may be more work to achieve high rankings. So you need to be all-in.

Making a commitment to an SEO strategy is a commitment to invest time, resources and, often, patience. Constantly reanalyzing data, making tweaks, reanalyzing, making more tweaks. Occasionally the data indicates a need for major overhauls. Going the DIY route can be a lot of time spent for mediocre results, but a team of SEO experts can put in the hard work for the desired results.

Help me pick the right keyword

Make Your Website Faster: Tips to Increase Page Load Speed

In a time where Google puts its highest priority on user experience, and users are not willing to wait for much of anything… website load time is a critical factor for search engine rankings and retaining potential leads.

There are many factors to consider: browser, website host, device, page content, etc. But first, let’s start with YOUR website’s load time.

What’s my website loading speed?

You can check page load time through a couple avenues. If you use Chrome, you can use the Chrome extension “Page Load Time” or a separate tracker like Pingdom. You can also check if your website is loading fast enough for you visitors by checking your bounce rate. Bounce rate can be seen through Google Analytics. If the bounce rate is high, it can indicate load time is too slow. High bounce rate can also negatively impact Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Google Webmaster recommends a maximum of 2 second load time for an ecommerce website, but Google aims for a half a second. That’s fast.

Help Check my Website Speed

frustrated user waiting for website to load

How to make my website faster

Compress: The file size that the browser renders is king. The smaller the image the faster the load time. Here are some tips to optimize your images for faster website load time.

  • Resize your images before you upload them onto a page. Don’t load a 5000x3500px image when your image on the page displays at 500×300. Your browser needs to calculate this resizing, and this takes time.
  • Remove all the metadata from an image to reduce the image size. For example, you don’t need to know what camera was used, where the photo was taken, etc… This can bloat the filesize that the browser needs to render. This takes time.
  • Consider compressing your CSS and Javascript files so that they are condensed into fewer files and the overall bytes loaded is smaller. This can make future edits to your site tedious and time consuming, so be sure to consult your web developer and get their advice before doing this.
  • Consult your website hosting provider about how to utilize gzip to serve your website files to browsers. Compressing the resources that the browser requests can allow your browser to get information faster.

Help me Compress

Design, Coding & Content: The three main factors when building a website, all contributing to website load time. Here are some tips to optimize website design, coding and website content for fast website load time.

  • Remove the junk. Many prebuilt templates are built to sell and have ALL the features. By the time you have your content, images, page structure, etc. established, you’re left with a lot of dead weight you’re not using. Delete as much unnecessary data from your template as possible, including images, plugins and posts.
  • If speed is a top priority, consider getting a custom-built template. Often, prebuilt templates are built in a complex way to hide code, making it harder for others to “borrow” code. These hiding techniques are good at making it difficult to borrow, but they also sometimes make a browser load more files, or the structure of the code causes render blocking (some sections on the site cannot render until all the appropriate files are loaded). This can increase load time and create the illusion that the page loads extremely slow.
  • During the website design process, don’t force a ton of heavy elements into your design: Use fewer photos, host videos on YouTube, consider less “moving content” like ajax loading or lazy-load content.

Optimize my Design

Other Considerations: Consider utilizing the open source Accelerated Mobile Pages provided by Google. Basically, Google renders a snapshot of your site instead of reloading it for mobile users, so it loads lightning fast. But be sure to understand the problems with caching for this method of Google displaying your content.

How to design a fast website

The best route to go is to ditch the out-of-the-box solution and partner with a website design and SEO company. If you’re working with a team that builds websites to look beautiful with best SEO practices in mind, website load time will be considered through every step of the process.

Our website design and Search Engine Optimization Omaha team considers website load speed from the initial planning stages through our SEO strategy implementation. So, if you want to know how to design a fast website, let us know, or we can make it happen for you.

Make My Website Fast

Why is Quality Content Important?

The short answer… quality content is important because it’s important to the search engines. There’s not a single client who walks through our door who doesn’t care about success in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). And if Google loves good content, then you should too! The strategy of website design has made major shifts over the last few years. The goal has always been for good user experience; and years ago, our Omaha web designers and web developers would put most of the focus on functional and beautiful design for the best experience possible. Functional and beautiful design are still important to user experience, but now we must also put heavy emphasis on website content. So, let’s approach your website from a more holistic point of view. Let’s build a website that is both beautiful to the eye and rich in valuable information.

Where should you start?

google search example image You can start by understanding how results are served on Google. Google’s algorithm is multifaceted and based on more than 200 factors. But Google’s focus when serving results is relevance. Google does not see the design of your website, but instead sees the words and their location. Because of Google’s commitment to serving relevant websites and content, high quality content serves itself. This is not keyword stuffed content. This is content that is readable, that is appropriately placed on the correct page, that is keeping a user on your website. This is more than just plunking in a keyword every-so-often.

So, you think you optimized your pages…

You’ve selected your primary keywords based on what you think your potential customers are searching. Or even better, perhaps, you’ve partnered with our Omaha SEO team to do some in-depth keyword research and analysis. And you’ve tried to integrate your keywords into your web page titles and H1’s, and as frequently as possible into your content. (We offer this service as a one-time SEO optimization.) But if your website content is only a few sentences per page, with very little substance, your efforts hold very little weight in the search engines. In fact, it’s often more beneficial for you to invest in creating valuable content than implementing our one-time SEO optimization.

What’s the next step?

icon to show searching through website pages The only way to know your best way forward is to analyze how your website is performing. Though Google Analytics and Search Console you can see how each page is ranking, how you’re performing for your desired keywords, and what your user time on site and bouncerates are for each individual page. Quality content is going to establish, at least three critical factors for SEO success:
  1. The search engines will read it and rank it according to its context and value.
  2. Users will read the content, because it is relevant and valuable to them, increasing user time on site
  3. Users will likely be funneled into the website, decreasing user bounce rate.
If your questioning the value of any page on your website, I’d venture to say you probably need to rewrite it. And as a website design company who approaches your website from a holistic point of view, quality content is not only important from an SEO perspective, but also from a design perspective. Did you know that we have a copywriter on staff? Quality content is worth the time and financial investment because it can, and will, bring in new business. So, let us help you improve on every facet of your website – design, performance, content.

Help me with content

SEO Facts to Protect Against Dishonest SEO Providers

A Nebraska small business owner recently called us asking about our SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services. He had signed up with an “SEO service provider” who promised a #1 ranking in Google for only $100 a month. And it worked – for one month. The next month his site dropped to page 6 in search results, far worse than before. Now the “service provider” (Can you read my sarcasm?) was telling our caller that he would have to pay a lot more money to fix the damage. Damage caused by this provider’s “services.”

Unfortunately, this provider took actions that not only didn’t help our caller’s ranking but likely severely damaged his website’s reputation with Google. Recovering from such penalties will take much longer than 1 month and more than $100.

You can protect yourself from cheats and liars by knowing a few facts about SEO.

lying service provider icon

No one can legitimately promise a #1 ranking

Even the best SEO agencies in the world are limited by one fact: SEOs are not Google. Google’s engineers make their own decisions and they carefully limit public information about how it all works. SEO practitioners depend on close readings of everything Google engineers say and on research by industry leaders. Legitimate SEO practitioners are experts on the research but they also know their powers are limited.

Link schemes are a bad bet

web link graphic

Some “SEO service providers” say they’ll get thousands of social media mentions and many thousands of links to your site. Run, don’t walk, away from someone offering you that “service.” Google knows these schemes exist, are constantly uncovering systems that operate them, and penalizes sites that receive those kinds of links and mentions. In the case of the business owner that called JM, his story had all the tell-tale signs of receiving a Google penalty. If your prospective SEO doesn’t show concern for good quality links, their work is likely to cause your site more harm than good.

That being said, there is a correct way to build links to your site: Creating good content that’s valuable to your audience. I’ll cover this in a future post.

Help me create good content

If the price sounds too good to be true, it is.

More than a few charlatans are willing to sell you empty promises for easy money. The truth is SEO, done correctly and without causing harm, requires months of work and costs a lot more than $100. If you can’t put that much trust in a prospective SEO, then trust your instincts, walk away, and find one you can be confident in.

A good SEO should be interested in your business

The point of a website is for new customers to discover your business and for everyone to buy your products or services more easily. SEO is one set of tactics to support that strategy. If your prospective SEO isn’t interested in your business, what you sell, and who your desired customers are, they’re not prepared to make decisions that will support your strategy and benefit your business.

When you’re considering hiring an Omaha SEO service provider, it pays off to take it seriously. Don’t look for a cheap deal. Find an SEO who knows what they can and cannot promise and who is interested in helping your business succeed online.

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5 Ways to Increase User Time on Site

It all comes back to user experience. Whether its design, functionality or content – a successful website provides a user with value. User experience is so important that it’s become the main driver for Google’s algorithm updates over the last several years. And it’s been said in some major SEO studies that one of the most critical factors for SEO success is user time on page. User time on site is directly correlated to user experience. If your website design is pleasing, if your functionality is friendly, and your content is engaging and valuable the overall time on site will increase. Abandoning visitors increase the bounce rate (user gets to your website and leaves without clicking anything), which reduces conversions and profits. You can find out your average user time on site through Google Analytics under Audience > Overview.
Here are five tips from our Omaha web design and SEO team for increasing user time on site:

Spruce up design

Your website design gives users a first impression. The design entices or turns away a user before they even start reading the content. So, make that first impression count with a website design that’s clean, functional and accurately reflects your business. A user-friendly website will also be mobile-friendly. Make sure your website is using responsive technology. Google will reward your website for responsive technology and the added value and readability will increase time on site for mobile users, also increasing your organic rankings.

Quality content

Among Google’s guidelines for content is “make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.” Contrary to the old-school way of thinking, keywords stuffed into mindless or irrelevant content will not increase SEO value. Your website content, page structure, design… everything… should be geared toward adding value to your users. This is relevant to pages relating to your core services and to your website blog. Feeding Google consistent content through a blog/news page can be great. But the quantity of content is no longer a key factor for SEO success. Instead, focus on quality of content. If you are unable to produce quality content for your blog, then get rid of it (or hire JM to do it). A blog that’s not being updating with quality content is likely doing nothing for your SEO value and it’s not building credibility for website visitors.

Internal linking

Keep users interested by pointing them to the next thing they’ll want to read. Across your website, link to related services or key team members when relevant. On blogs, link to other related articles whenever possible. This will help provide more relevant information that will appeal to user’s direct interests and be good for your website’s SEO. Links are crucial SEO ranking signals. Inbound links, outbound links and internal links help Google figure out what is relevant and authoritative.

Optimize website performance

You have less than one minute to keep a visitor on your website. And if even a small portion of that minute is being spent on load time… you’ve likely lost your visitor. You can check your website load time using free tools like Pingdom, and if you’re load time is more than 4 second… you need to make some changes. You can consider: Getting a new website host: Nothing you can do to optimize your website will make any difference if you have a bad website hosting company. There are VERY cheap hosting options available. I, for one, love a good deal. But you’re not looking for a good deal when it comes to website hosting… you’re looking for reliable, secure and support-focused website hosting. Use a caching plugin: Caching can result in a 10x speed gain over a non-cached website. And the plugin is free! Remove unnecessary plugins and update: WordPress (our preferred platform) has lots of cool plugins. But they may be slowing your website down. So, you need to weigh the options and get rid of the ones you don’t need. Also, updating your plugins is critical for site performance AND security. Optimize images:  There are plugins available that can compress and optimize images for faster load time. Or, you can make your images smaller to increase load time.

Attract the right users

A great design, good content, internal links and fast load times are not relevant unless you’re attracting the right users to your website in the first place. Use keywords and long-tail keywords that your ideal customer will search, bid on these keywords for Google Ad campaigns, and create good meta descriptions so users will understand what they’re clicking on before they get to a page. After making modifications to your website and strategy to increase user time on site, check your Google analytics and analyze the success of each page, individually. Your data will help you make informed decisions. Don’t know how to analyze the data? Our Omaha SEO team can. Don’t have time to write valuable content? We have an experienced copywriter. Don’t have the ability to make the changes that need to be made? No problem. We can help!

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Increase SEO with Traditional Marketing

While web marketing is our jam, we still believe in the power of traditional marketing to reinforce your online brand. Even at JM, we use traditional marketing efforts in the Omaha metro and we believe the branding power it gives directly effects our SEO.

For years, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been thought to be a keyword game. Yes, using strategic keywords and regularly contributing rich content is still a factor in organic ranking. But search engines use many factors to determine a site’s rank and most do not rely on keywords.

What factors do search engines use for SEO rank?

semrush ranking factors

In 2017 SEMrush conducted a ranking factors study, analyzing the importance of 17 different factors for organic rankings. The top five factors are:

  1. Direct website visits
  2. Time on the site
  3. Pages per session
  4. Bounce rate
  5. Referring domains
  6. Backlinks

The factors that I’d argue can be strongly correlated to traditional marketing efforts are:

Direct Website Visits: Users arrive at your website directly, typing in your domain. This indicates to Google that the domain has high authority and value.

Backlinks: A backlink is any link from another website to your website. This indicates to Google that other people believe in the value of your website.

So what…?

dart board bulls-eye

Your marketing strategy “in-real-life” reinforces your company’s online presence. When people discover your offline brand, they are more likely to visit your website than to drive to your storefront and walk in.

Search engines know this and they recognize these direct visits as a mark of a strong, real life business. Since direct website visits are one of the greatest factors of high search rank, branding your business offline is a crucial part in strengthening your business online.

Also, develop relationships and partnerships in your community. Think speaking engagements, guest blogging, newspaper articles, supporting public charities. All of that community involvement and the publicity connected with it can bring even more potential customers to your site. It’s good for the place you love and it’s good for your SEO.

The point is…

If people see a bus ad, hear a radio ad, see your logo on a sponsorship banner, hear you speak at a seminar… they are more likely to look up your company directly, giving your business domain a powerful boost.

Being involved in your community by doing good and providing education can give you brand power AND SEO power through direct visits and backlinks.

So look at your current marketing efforts. Are they working together? Do they elevate your brand offline AND increase the value of your SEO efforts online?

Google Analytics can tell you a lot about the results your efforts are producing. And if you don’t know how to analyze that data, we do. Let our Omaha-based SEO team help you put together a comprehensive SEO strategy that can help you build power!

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